Effective Use of Online Forums


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Herbert Simon’s

Online forums, message boards, and newsgroups have become commonplace. These effective communication technologies provide numerous advantages. Unfortunately, however, forum involvement can develop into a harmful addiction, with the benefits being outweighed by severe side effects.

Here are some of the potential advantages of regular involvement in Internet forums:

* Exchange of ideas

* Developing new ideas and improving on established ones

* Taking advantage of community membership

* influencing the evolution of the forum

* Giving back to others

* Making new acquaintances and contacts

* New business opportunities

* Staying up to date with current happenings

* Discovering new opportunities

Here are some of the potential negative consequences of extensive forum use:

* Diminishing concentration and focus

* Lower productivity

* Constant procrastination

* A rise in pessimism and apathy

* Being diverted by never-ending discussions and frivolous chatter

* Substituting tribal groups gradually Consider your intelligence.

* Impaired social skills, neglected relationships, and a diminished social circle (as a result of replacing face-to-face discussions with online sociability)

* Less energy expended (forum involvement is passive in comparison to more active social outlets)

* Low self-esteem

* Career and income may suffer (including job termination).

* Addiction to message boards

Since the early 1990s, I’ve engaged in various online forums, message boards, and newsgroups and seen many of these tremendous and harmful consequences. I maintained a prominent game developer community for nearly two years, so I’ve had experience as both a participant and a forum admin. Additionally, I’ve gained crucial new business contacts and even met my wife through a local computer bulletin board system. On the negative side, I found excessive participation to be a significant time drain (as well as quite addictive).

Here are some tips for using forums productively while avoiding harmful consequences:

1. Attend a Forum Fast

First, if you’re involved in any forums, quickly join one. Then, avoid all forums; don’t even lurk. Second, I advocate a fasting period of at least 30 days but at least 14 days. This will assist you in breaking any unconscious tendencies and regaining perspective, allowing you to assess the function forums should play in your life sensibly. Otherwise, you may act out of habit and overestimate the value of continuous participation. Third, if you’re a forum moderator, take a break and delegate your moderation duties to someone else. Redirect the time you would have spent in online forums to something productive, such as exercising or reading. If you don’t believe you have the discipline to accomplish this, write on each platform that you’ll be taking the next 30 days off and that if any forum member catches you online, you’ll pay the first person who emails you about it $100. This should provide you with enough leverage to maintain your speed.

2. Examine Your Forum Usage Patterns

Take a new look at your forum involvement habits once you’ve completed the initial fasting time (and not before). Assume you discovered each forum for the first time today. What are the advantages and disadvantages of participating? Is this the ideal way to spend your time, or can you think of something better? Is studying books, articles, or blogs better than using forums to gain technical information? Would it be better to join a local club and meet people in person if you use them as a social outlet? Would you say you were addicted based on your previous pattern of behavior? Has your usage behavior become unconscious? If yes, how do you plan to avoid this happening again?

3. State Your Expectations

If you decide to join online forums, be sure your expectations are clear. Whether you intend to use platforms for market research, to develop new relationships, or to express your amusing wit, you should be clear about why you’re there.

4. Define Reasonable Boundaries

Set clear boundaries for yourself and write them down to reduce the possibility of forum addiction. For example, you can limit how many times you check each topic each week, how much time you spend participating overall, and how many posts you allow yourself to make each week. Track your weekly usage on a scrap of paper to keep track of your involvement habits. Don’t fall into unconscious habituation by going black. Set clear boundaries so that if you cross them, you know you’re on the verge of getting into an addictive pattern. And if that happens, it’s essential to start a fresh fasting period immediately.

5. Release It

If you succumb to forum addiction or other problematic usage behaviors regularly, you may decide to avoid them. As of this writing, I no longer routinely participate in any online forums or message boards. When I started my aims, I understood that my primary motivation for participating was contributing and assisting others. However, using forums as a contributing channel was wasteful because it frequently resulted in protracted (and generally fruitless) arguments. Sticking to one-to-many sources like writing articles and running a blog was a far better use of my time. Blog comments still allow for some involvement, but the work necessary to handle them is manageable, and most blog comments are relevant to the author.

6. Replace online socializing with face-to-face interaction

Regarding social interaction, internet forums could be a better alternative for meeting people in person. While there is some social advantage to forums – many people, including myself, have met their spouses online – it is crucial to physically spend time with other humans rather than through a computer screen. If you’re looking for a new social outlet, join a local club or association that meets regularly. When I joined Toastmasters International and started attending meetings and competing in speech contests, my interest in networking on internet forums dropped substantially. Face-to-face, belly-to-belly touch outperforms even the finest internet communication.

7. Be a dabbler rather than a fixture

Another suggestion is to view forum participation as a one-time event. If making new business relationships is your goal, participate actively for 30-90 days. Make new acquaintances and contacts, get private contact information, and then leave the forums. Continue to cultivate your new relationships through one-on-one communication such as email, phone calls, and, if possible, in-person encounters (such as at industry conferences). Temporarily dabbling in various forums is a more successful approach to making contacts than pushing a single topic past its usefulness.

The dabbling method can also obtain general information on a subject. First, please find a few relevant forums and bookmark them. Then, once every six months, spend a few hours perusing each forum to absorb the latest knowledge. If you have a specific query, look through the forum archives. If your search yields no results, start a new message, harvest the answers, and depart.

8. Prevent Addiction

Online forums can be challenging. At the time of writing, continuing daily engagement in any particular forum for more than a few months is virtually always ineffective. The initial benefits, such as increasing knowledge and creating new contacts, eventually bring diminishing returns. Then there are the terrible consequences, such as forum addiction. Regular participation (even though unconscious habituation) will still get some benefits, but the longer you participate, the less efficiently those benefits are realized.

Online gaming addiction, web surfing addiction, blog addiction, email addiction, and news addiction are all close relatives of forum addiction. The typical trend is that unconscious habituation precedes conscious, rational decision-making. Make efforts to regain conscious control if you ever find yourself in such an unproductive habit. Fasting can help you recover perspective, reexamine your motivations, set clear boundaries, and find other outlets. Manage your forum usage wisely to achieve your goals and avoid falling into the trap of Addiction.

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